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Luminaires (Light Fixtures)

A lamp or lamp-ballast combination may produce light very efficiently, but if it's installed in an inefficient luminaire, the overall system efficiency may still be poor. The best luminaire manufacturers will design their fixtures around specific lamps to optimize the amount of light delivered to the work area. For example, a luminaire designed specifically for a compact fluorescent lamp can deliver almost 10 times as much illumination as an incandescent fixture fitted with the same compact fluorescent lamp.

Luminaire components include reflectors, diffusers-which absorb some of the light from a lamp-and polarizing panels. Reflectors can be used to direct more of the light produced by the lamp out of the luminaire onto the work area. Polarizing panels can sometimes increase the contrast of a visual task.

  • When comparing luminaires, it's important to understand the following performance characteristics:
  • Illuminance - the amount of light that reaches a surface. It's measured in foot candles (lumens/square foot) or lux (lumens/square meter).

  • Luminaire Efficacy/Efficiency Rating (LER) - the light output (lumens) per watt of electricity use. The LER is part of a voluntary efficiency program for manufacturers under the National Lighting Collaborative, which was facilitated by the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

  • Luminaire products typically fall under the following general uses:
  • Residential Building Luminaires

  • Commercial Building Luminaires.

Before selecting luminaries or light fixtures for use in a home, it's a good idea to consult a certified lighting designer. A lighting designer can help you determine the home's lighting needs, and provide solutions for optimum efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The basic formula for energy efficient lighting design is simple: choose luminaires with the ENERGY STAR® label, install the lamps recommended by the manufacturer, use lighting controls intelligently, and put light only where it is needed.

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Figure 113: Energy Star-compliant lighting efficiently illuminates important areas.

  • Each luminaire with the ENERGY STAR label meets a specification that addresses these characteristics:
  • Energy efficiency and power - All lamps (light bulbs) are required to meet a minimum efficacy, which means that they will offer more lumens per watt (light per energy used) than common residential lamps. The luminaires must also meet power quality requirements, complying with electromagnetic and radio frequency interference standards.

  • Operation - Residential light fixtures must illuminate quickly, produce light with good color rendering, and operate quietly. Portable luminaires (table or floor lamps) must also be capable of dimming or two-level switching.

  • Reliability and durability - Light fixtures must be constructed of heat- and UV-stable glass or optical grade plastics. Lamps that meet the energy-efficiency characteristics also offer extended life up to 20 times longer than standard incandescent lamps.

  • Safety - All luminaires will be listed by Underwriters Laboratories or other testing agency for compliance with the National Electric Code.

Even though popular, there's one luminaire type you should try to avoid using-the halogen torchiere. Not only do halogen torchieres use a lot of energy, but they're also potential fire hazards. Manufacturers, however, have developed torchieres that can use more energy efficient and safer lamps, such as compact fluorescent lamps.

For outdoors, you might consider using outdoor photovoltaic (PV) lighting. Outdoor PV lighting systems use PV panels (or modules), which convert sunlight to electricity. The electricity is stored in batteries for use at night. Luminaires vary in size from small, eight-inch red glowing pathway markers to pole-mounted patio and high-beam security lights. They are often available in hardware, lighting, and discount stores.

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Figure 114: Effective luminaires enhance our lifestyle.

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